Every March, in the midst of winter's (theoretical) last stand, a much-longed-for event occurs: the annual release of Founders Brewing Co.'s Kentucky Breakfast Stout. Or, Founders KBS for short.

What started as an experiment in Kentucky Bourbon barrels has evolved into one of the most anticipated releases on the beery calendar. With a perfect 100 on RateBeer and being considered one of the highest-rated beers in existence it's no surprise that it's highly coveted. It's truly worthy of its celebration even if camping outside in the Michigan cold just to be one of the first to get it may be a bit much.

A beer as fine as this is not achieved without special care. The makers add two kinds of Belgian chocolate and two locally-roasted coffees to even further enhance the chocolate and coffee notes. Oats are added to the malt-bill for a creamy, viscous mouthfeel. But it's the pièce de résistance, the final step, the grand finale that gives this beer--this brewery--its reputation as being one of the stalwarts of the industry: the Kentucky Bourbon barrel.

Tucked away deep inside gypsum caves only miles from the brewery in Grand Rapids, the barrels from the likes of Jim Beam or Maker's Mark hold the beer for a year. This year-long aging process allows the beer to take on the oak tannins from the barrels. The Bourbon also imparts a bit of its flavour into the beer which is why the brewers will only select barrels from Bourbons they actually like. No moonshine here!

Of course, barrel-aging is not unique to Founders. Barrel-aging adds a certain depth to a beer, a certain complexity that just can't be matched in regular tanks. It didn't take long for others to catch on and these days it's easy to find beers aged in everything short of an old boot. But Founders was doing it before it was cool; before people thought they liked it.

Founders aims for consistency in each year's production; the stable temperatures and a climate controlled unit within the caves ensure it. Blending is necessary because the longer a barrel held the Bourbon the more its flavours will influence the beer. Therefore, after the brewers taste-test (what a job!) each barrel, the contents are blended for consistency.

This year's version has finally reached our shores after being released Stateside on April 1st. Whilst the beer is suitable for aging (and at 12.4% will likely outlast a meteor strike) it's more than lovely to drink now. Either way, it's a beauty that should be celebrated now and in the years to come.